- Pro-Brexit ministers are expected to back Theresa May’s plan to offer a £40 billion financial settlement to the European Union.
- The PM hopes £40 billion will be enough to break the deadlock in Brexit talks.
- Britain is facing the prospect of talks on trade and transition not beginning until 2018 unless the EU accepts its latest financial offer.
LONDON — Theresa May is today set to receive the backing of senior members of her Cabinet to make a financial offer of £40 billion to the European Union in an attempt to break the deadlock in Brexit negotiations.
The prime minister will lay out plans at a meeting of her Brexit Cabinet committee to add around £20 billion to the £20 billion she offered in her Florence speech in September, the Times reports. The EU is thought to estimate Britain’s financial obligations at around £53 billion.
May’s full cabinet will then rubber-stamp the decision on Tuesday, before it is made formally to European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday.
Last week it was reported that Cabinet Brexiteers Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox were unhappy with the financial offer being doubled because they believed Britain would be handing over large amounts of taxpayers’ money without knowing what the EU would offer in return, specifically in regards to future trade arrangements.
However, the Cabinet’s leading Brexiteers are now ready to sign up to the increased financial offer, or “divorce bill” as it’s sometimes known, as long as there is a “greater degree of clarity over how the EU was going to respond to it,” a government source told The Times.
The source added that Johnson and co are keen for a “mutually agreed plan for what happens in the next phase of the talks.”
The UK government is determined for Brexit negotiations to move onto the next phase before New Year so both sides have as much time as possible to discuss future trade arrangements and a possible transition deal.
However, the EU has been insistent that talks cannot move on until “sufficient progress” is made on citizens’ rights, the Irish border, and the size of Britain’s financial settlement.
Earlier this month, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned Britain it had just two weeks to make its position clear on these issues for there to be any chance of talks moving onto the next stage in December.
A former senior EU official has told Business Insider that figures in Brussels expected the British side to make a formal proposal on the so-called divorce bill immediately following May Florence warmly-received speech, and were shocked when a proposal did not follow.
Chancellor Philip Hammond suggested on Sunday that Britain was on the brink of making an offer that could be the key to unlocking talks.
“We’re now, I think, on the brink of making some serious movement forward… and starting to unlock that logjam so that people can start to see clarity about the future,” Hammond told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
Any acceptance of a significantly increased Brexit bill would mark a significant surrender by hardline Brexiteers in the Conservative party. The foreign secretary Boris Johnson said in July that the EU could “go whistle” if they expected Britain to pay up.
“The sums they [the EU] propose seem to be extortionate and I think go whistle is an entirely appropriate expression,” Johnson told MPs.
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